Local children gather to receive gifts from Santa Claus
By Olivia McClure
The Natchez Democrat
NATCHEZ — Nearly 300 children left the Braden Auditorium Wednesday lugging brown paper bags almost as big as themselves.
The bags were full of early Christmas gifts they received from Santa Claus as part of the annual Santa Claus Committee parade.
Children and their parents filled the auditorium, waiting for Santa to arrive.
When he entered, children stood and cheered, some stopping Santa on his way to the stage for a hug.
Caroline McDonough, Santa Claus Committee member, said Catholic Charities helps the committee select needy children between ages 1 and 10.
“Some parents have said they wouldn’t get anything if it wasn’t for this,” McDonough said. “It’s very rewarding.”
The children, divided into gender and age groups, went on stage to greet Santa and get their presents.
Mothers and older sisters carried babies and toddlers, while some older children raced across the stage to hug Santa.
Committee members walked the aisles, handing out candy to keep children entertained while they waited for their name to be called.
Krystaly Jones, 4, opened her bag to reveal a doll, tea serving set and art set — all packaged in pink boxes that matched the bright pink jacket she was wearing.
Jones said she was excited about her gifts and liked meeting Santa.
“All she’s done is talk about Santa Claus,” said her father, Demecio Hawkins. “It’s a dream for her.”
As children returned to their seats with their bags, they pulled out gifts — teddy bears, coloring books, clothes — and admired them, showing them off to their parents and siblings.
Quatonya Saul’s 3-year-old son, Quashard, watched as his 8-year-old brother Octavius went to get his gift. He returned with a bag just like Quashard’s, but their mother made them wait until Christmas morning to open them.
“It gives them something to open tomorrow,” she said.
The giveaway is special, Saul said, because her sons enjoy this time of year. Many children Octavius’ age no longer believe in Santa or see Christmas as a magical, exciting holiday, but he does, Saul said.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “My baby is excited, and (Octavius) is excited, because he still believes in Christmas.”
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